Field trip fun at the Maryland Historical Society, Grandma’s mashed potatoes, birthday Legos, and a moving art exhibit (7 Quick Takes)

~1~

It’s difficult for me to get to all the events at school, so I try to go on the field trips when I can because they are so much fun. And I really like to get a sense of the social dynamic of the class and get to know my children’s friends.

This week I tagged along on a fourth-grade trip to the Maryland Historical Society. I think I had been there many years ago when I was in elementary school, but I didn’t remember much. And I certainly didn’t remember it being so interactive and well-designed and genuinely interesting.

The children even had the chance to write with quill pens and real ink. And the interactive screens were exciting. We will definitely be going back.

~2~

I especially enjoyed that the Maryland Historical Society had some exhibits about Father Andrew White, the Jesuit who celebrated the first Mass in Maryland on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) in 1634.

We mark that anniversary at Loyola University Maryland, where I work, so I felt a little as if I had gone on a busman’s holiday, thinking and talking about Father Andrew White on my day off.

~3~

The other day our 9-year-old said, “When’s Thanksgiving?”

I counted down the days for him.

“Good,” he said. “I can’t wait to have Grandma’s mashed potatoes.”

“Oh…um…we’re not going to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving,” I said. “We’re going to be with Grammy and Poppy and Aunt Karin and….” I went through the list of the members of my husband’s family we would be seeing. He seemed totally happy, but I knew we could probably get him some mashed potatoes.

So, I called Grandma. She was pleased, of course, that he had praised her potatoes. Next thing I knew, she was organizing a second Thanksgiving.

Grandmas are the best. Or maybe their mashed potatoes are best, and the Grandmas themselves come in second. But we can be thankful for both.

~4~

I’m planning to bring a cheese tray to my parents’ Thanksgiving dinner. Last year I brought it in the shape of the Mayflower. This year my sister Treasa suggested that I make it in the shape of a cornucopia.

The back story: One of my colleagues had this idea to use a cornucopia for a photo shoot for work, and it seemed like the easiest thing in the world to get our hands on one.

Then we couldn’t find one anywhere for a reasonable price—especially since I was hoping to borrow one for free. I finally thought of our dining service, and they kindly let us borrow one. But because it was so difficult to find one, I feel this should be the Year of the Cornucopia.

~5~

We had a terrific time celebrating our 12-year-old son’s birthday last weekend. We went out for hibachi because nothing is fancier or more delicious than rice that has been fried on a hibachi. And maybe one day we will all be able to catch shrimp in our mouths. Maybe.

Later that evening, I brought out an ice cream cake, put candles in it, and we sang. Then the birthday boy set his cake aside and pulled out a Lego set to work on.

When there are Legos around, dessert can wait.

~6~

As the boys and I were heading to a craft fair last weekend, my husband asked us to look for a decorated brick we could use as a doorstop.

I didn’t think we would actually see one, and I had completely forgotten about it when we reached maybe the 87th table at the show. There, in all their glory, were two decorated bricks.

We picked one out, handed over our $5, and exuberantly told the lady who had made them how excited we were.

“I never thought I’d sell one of those,” she said with a big smile.

~7~

I stopped by an art exhibit called Sea of Hope in Loyola’s Julio Fine Arts Gallery the other day, and the installation there was so powerful and moving. The artist, Foon Sham, created it as a tribute to his mother who died of cancer, but it’s also a way of inviting people to share their feelings of loss. Anyone visiting the exhibit can write a message on the white paper boats he has made and insert them into the exhibit, leaving tea leaves as symbols of a cure inside.

I didn’t leave a boat myself, but I may before the exhibit closes. It seemed such a significant step, to write a message that would become part of an exhibit. But it’s such a beautiful idea, and I loved seeing a visible sign of the peace that can come through grieving together—as well as how wonderful it is that we can share in hope for a time when cancer doesn’t take so many lives.

The installation closes Nov. 21. If you happen to be in the area, you might want to stop by to add a boat or just experience it in person. Here are the details if you’re interested.

You can find more quick takes on Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum. Hope you have a great weekend!

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review's Open Window blog. She and her husband adopted their two sons from China, and Rita often writes about topics concerning adoption, family and faith.

Rita also writes The Domestic Church, a featured column in the Catholic Review. Her writing has been honored by the Catholic Press Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Associated Church Press.